A Sunday afternoon in October, while her mother — who was using prescription tranquilizers — was napping in their Arkansas home, 3-year-old Alexis Haney climbed into the washing machine and closed the lid.
The young children in the home told police they were used to helping with the laundry.
The washing machine, which the family used as a dirty clothes hamper, was programmed to switch on when the lid closed. After the clothes were clean, one child would climb into the open machine and pass the wet clothes to another, who would then toss them into the dryer.
Alexis closed the lid — and hot water started to pour in.
Authorities said she died from “scaling and thermal injuries,” according to a probable cause affidavit filed earlier this week in Calhoun County Circuit Court.
“It hurt my heart to know a little child died like that,” Bobbie Holmes, a neighbor, told NBC affiliate KARK. “I couldn’t imagine what pain she went through.”
Brooke Haney, 25, from Hampton, a small town in southern Arkansas, has been arrested and charged with endangering the welfare of a minor in two separate incidents last year — one in which she is accused of driving with her 7-month-old child in the back seat while she was under the influence of prescription drugs, and the other in which the 3-year-old died, according to court documents.
Following a police investigation, authorities said they determined that she was on benzodiazepines, drugs most commonly used to treat anxiety and insomnia.
According to the Drug Enforcement Administration, benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, are more often abused by adolescents and young adults to achieve a euphoric sensation, but can cause drowsiness.
In the most recent report, the American Association of Poison Control Centers reported 74,182 cases involving benzodiazepines in 2014; 18 resulted in death.
In August 2015, Hampton police said, they pulled Haney over because she was causing other cars to move to the side of the road. Officers determined that she was “exhibiting behavior indicating she was under the influence of prescription medication,” according to the court documents. They said she failed “several” sobriety tests and walked into traffic while they were trying to detain her, according to records.
Her infant child was in the back seat.
Authorities said she had prescription medication in her possession but she did not have a valid prescription, according to the court documents.
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Two months later, Hampton police received a call about a child in Haney’s home who had been severely injured in a washing machine incident.
Authorities said Haney, a mother of three, was caring for her 10-month-old and 3-year-old children when she decided to take a nap. When she woke up, authorities said, she noticed her toddler, Alexis, was missing.
Haney ran to a neighbor’s house and asked for help to search for the child, who was found in the washing machine, according to the court documents. Police said she was rushed to Medical Center of South Arkansas, where she was pronounced dead.
During the investigation, Haney’s 7-year-old told police about the children’s laundry ritual — one that upset neighbors when they heard about it.
“If I would have known that, I could have done something,” Holmes, a neighbor, told KARK. “I would have did the clothes for them, you know.”
After an investigation that lasted months, Haney was recently charged with two felony counts of endangering the welfare of a minor, which carry a maximum penalty of up to six years in an Arkansas Department of Correction facility. It’s unclear whether Haney has an attorney.
Court clerks in Calhoun County told KARK that Haney’s two surviving children are in the custody of the state’s Division of Children and Family Services.
Haney is expected to have another baby next month.
This post has been updated.